Essential TheoryBack to courses
Welcome to the theory section of our site. This is where we make sense of all the chords, scales and general guitar skills! Ever wondered why the G major is like it is, or what we actually mean when we talk about being in 'key'. We cover all this essential theory in a fun and easy to follow method that allows you to understand the inner workings of music and practically apply it to the guitar.
Our first task is to simply learn and memorise all 12 notes in western music. These notes will be our base upon which we build all of our scales and chords, and therefore the base upon which all songs are written! Let's start by laying out the 12 notes in sharps and flats.
Let's take a look at those notes on the E and A string of the guitar in the fretboard diagrams. It is important to memorise these notes on the neck as they will help with every part of your guitar playing as you advance!
It's now time to work out the formula for the major scale. The major scale is the base of every other scale and chord shape that will learn, so it is crucial that we can work out any major scale. To work out the major scale all we need to learn is a simple formula: 'Tone, tone, semi-tone, tone, tone, tone, semi-tone. This is demonstrated below:
Now you have the theoretical understanding of what a major scale is, let's check how that works in practice on the guitar neck. In the fretboard diagrams, we have a fretboard demonstrating the D major scale across one string, and then in the shape, we eventually learn and commit to.
As mentioned before, any scale from now on can be derived from the major scale. The numbers 1-8 with no alterations 'spell' a major scale. When you start altering those numbers you get new scales. To create a minor scale you need to take those numbers and flatten the 3rd, 6th and 7th notes. We can clearly see how this works in the diagram below.
Let's put the new theory into practice by applying it to the guitar. We can now work out a C minor scale using the formula: '1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8'. In the fretboard diagrams, we have the C minor scale across the neck as well as in one position which creates the shape to settle on using.
Chord construction is the theory behind all the chord shapes we play on the guitar. Have you ever wondered why this chord is a 'G' or that chord is an 'A minor'?! Well, now that we know how to construct a major scale, we can begin to understand and answer these questions! To put it simply, there is a formula that allows us to construct pretty much any chord, so all you need to know is the formula for a particular chord. We will be looking at the formulas for major, minor and diminished chords over the next 4 lessons.
We will now be learning the major chord formula. We will be applying it to the E major scale and, therefore, be creating an E major chord. The formula is to take the 1st, 3rd & 5th notes from the major scale. This is made clearer by the diagram below:
We can see how this works in a practical setting by putting these 3 notes anywhere on the guitar to create an E major chord. The fretboard found in the fretboard diagrams shows a few examples of these three notes together on the guitar, all of which will be E major chords! Notice how 'Example 4' is the basic open chord shape for E major. You can see how it still has the 3 notes E, G# and B, but they are repeated to fill out all 6 strings.
We will now be learning the minor chord formula. We will be applying it to the E major scale and, therefore, be creating an E minor chord. The formula is to take the 1st, b3rd & 5th notes from the major scale. This is made clearer by the diagram below:
We will now be learning the diminished chord formula. We will be applying it to the E major scale and, therefore, be creating an E diminished chord. The formula is to take the 1st, b3rd & b5th notes from the major scale. This is made clearer by the diagram below:
We can see how this works in a practical setting by putting these 3 notes anywhere on the guitar to create an E diminished chord. The fretboards in the fretboard diagrams section show a few examples of these three notes together on the guitar, all of which will be E diminished chords! Diminished chords don't tend to be used too much at a beginner level, so don't worry about memorising any of these shapes for now!
Time to put your new skills to the test! Dan will be asking you to create a few chords and you need to pause the video and try to create them for yourself before Dan shows you.
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